Duck Tracksters Head to World’s Championships in Beijing

A total of nine current and former Ducks will be competing in the World’s Championships in Beijing, Aug 22-31. Various networks and Internet sites will be carrying coverage, with the main coverage being supplied by NBC and Universal Sports.

There may be some hacks available and, for the true aficionado, the best place to find out how to watch every event in detail would be via the Track and Field News forums. Current Ducks athletes involved are:

Sam Crouser – Javelin. Sam finished 3rd at the USATF meet in Eugene in June, but didn’t attain the World’s qualifying mark until early August. His personal best mark of 83.33 meters (273’4″) exceeded the standard by roughly four feet and represented a huge personal best. Sam is coached by Eric Whitsett and has the advantage of working with his dad, Dean Crouser, former Duck NCAA discus champ.

In addition, Sam’s uncle, Brian, competed in both the 1988 and 1992 Olympics in the javelin throw. Quite the throwing family and the genes have obviously transferred well. A list of the past five World’s Championship marks shows Sam would have been on the podium once with his 83.33 and in the finals most every year. Should Sam hit a good throw in China, he could well come home with a medal.

Jenna Prandini sprinting in the 2014 NCAA Championships.

Jenna Prandini sprinting in the 2014 NCAA Championships.

Jasmine Todd –100 meters, Long Jump. None of the pundits picked Jasmine to make the team in the 100 meters, but she ran an outstanding final and finished third at USATF in 10.92, a time which would have won no less than bronze in four of the last five World’s Championships.

I would also expect Jasmine to run at least a round of the 4×100 relay. While she’s concentrated on sprints for the most part, she’s also a talented triple jumper and the daughter of TWO triple jumpers.

Jenna Prandini — 200 meters. Jenna annihilated a talented field in winning the USATF 200 by .18 seconds, which is a huge margin in a short sprint. While the Track and Field News form chart doesn’t predict a medal for Prandini, she’ll almost surely make the final and then anything goes.

Her USATF time of 22.20 would have put her on the podium in every World’s Championships over the past decade. Don’t bet against Jenna; she gets the job done.  She’ll also most likely run a relay leg or two in the 4×100.

English Gardner – 100 meters. Now we move into the “former Duck” category. English finished second in the USATF 100, with an outstanding time of 10.86. That time would have medaled in every World’s ever and would have won 3 of the last 5. Like Jenna and Jasmine, expect relay duty in the 4×100 from English.

Wouldn’t it be great to see all three in the final? Unlikely, since there are a lot of politics involved in relay selection (some might remember Mike Berry running the fastest 400 heat in 2011 and then being excluded from the final by the “powers that be,” none of them named Vin, despite his head coach status).

Rupp wins Silver at London Olympics.

Galen Rupp – 5000 and 10,000 meters. Galen’s career moment was his silver medal in the 10,000 at the London Olympics. Track and Field News picks him to finish third in the 10,000, but it should be noted that he was out of the medals in both races in Moscow in 2013.

With Mo Farah and an entire continent of talented African runners in both races, Galen will have his work cut out for him. Given his fast closing speed, tactical (i.e., slow) paces would work to his advantage.

Phyllis Francis – 400 meters. One of Oregon’s most beloved former Ducks made her first major international team with a third place finish at USATF, running 50.67 and edging current World leader Francena McCorory for the final team slot.  She’ll have to run faster than 50.67 to medal, but will most likely run at least one relay leg in the 4×400 where the US is favored. Thus, she has a good chance to come home with at least one medal.

Matt Centrowitz – 1500 meters. One of the great tactical runners in school history, Matt has medaled in both of his World Championship appearances – with a shocking third at Daegu in 2011 – followed by a second place finish in Moscow in 2013. Given the obvious progression, is Matt going to win it all this year?

For some unknown reason, championship 1500s are almost never based on speed. There are at least half dozen entrants with PRs better than Matt’s but, for some reason the races become tactical and, during the last decade, the fastest winning time was 3:34.77 vs the World Record time of 3:26.00. Such tactical races play greatly into the hands of intelligent runners with fast closing laps. One of those is Matt.

Ashton Eaton crossing the finish line.

Ashton Eaton crossing the finish line.

Ashton Eaton – Decathlon. Bet the house, the pension and all you can borrow on Ashton for gold. Barring injury, he’s 300 points better than anyone else in the field. And, he’s a nice guy.

Brianne Theisen-Eaton – Heptathlon. T&FN has her favored to win this time after her second place finish in 2013. If it were possible, I would suggest that the Duck track program obtain letters of intent for the Eatons’ unborn children.

While Hal and Olga Connolly won golds in the 1956 Olympics, they married after the event. Brianne and Ash could become the first husband/wife team to win World’s (or Olympic) gold medals in individual events.

Top Photo by Gary Breedlove

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